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Retro Redux: A Long Ride For Ray Anthony

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I've written a lot of pieces about musical stars who have enjoyed long performing careers, many stretching on for several decades. But it would be tough to top a guy who began his professional career by playing in Glenn Miller's band in 1940 — and is still active today.

Bandleader/trumpeter Ray Anthony (Raymond Antonini) was born in Pennsylvania but spent most of his childhood in Cleveland, where his father taught him the trumpet. He must have done a pretty good job because young Ray was just 18 when he managed to latch on to a job with Glenn Miller's bunch, a band that was then in the height of its fame. Anthony was soon a solid member, even showing up on camera when the band appeared in the film, Sun Valley Serenade. It would be just the first of his many appearances in movies (and later TV), and was probably helped along by the young musician's matinee-idol looks.

Although his Naval service in World War II interrupted his musical career, Anthony wasted no time in the post-war years. He soon formed his own orchestra and began building his popularity with tunes like "The Bunny Hop" (which he wrote), "Dancing In The Dark," and one of my favorites, "Melancholy Rhapsody" (clip).

By the 1950s he'd gotten into music for films and TV, selling a lot of records with the themes from "Dragnet" and "Peter Gunn." He also began appearing on camera himself, not only in his own TV show (video below) but also in acting parts. Along the way he married sexy actress Mamie Van Doren, and the couple occasionally showed up in the same movies — or at least they did until their eventual divorce.

In the years since, Ray Anthony has slowed down on the acting front but has stayed busy in the musical arena as a performer, leader and composer. He's been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is still keeping busy, even showing up on his old buddy Hugh Hefner's TV show, The Girls Next Door. Not a bad gig.

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